Always a voice for sensible decision-making, Brian Wilson’s Opinion Piece on local petroleum exploration was no exception. Brian succinctly outlined some of the fundamental challenges we have as a community if the oil industry gets established in Gisborne and questioned any benefits the industry might bring.
The greatest challenge of course is a moral one: why would we welcome an industry that is, probably more than any other, responsible for causing catastrophic changes in our climate? What are we going to tell our grandchildren when they ask why didn’t we make the transition to renewable energy faster?
And yes, anyone suggesting we need to change and still using fossil fuels is compromised, but that’s a bit like saying Gandhi and Mandela should not have spoken English during their struggle against colonisation.
The transition to renewables will take time – it took petroleum a few decades in the early 20th Century to supersede coal as the primary fuel – but the longer we allow cheap access to fossil fuels, the longer the transition takes.
Humans have already discovered five times more oil and gas than we can consume without pushing planetary warming above the critical two degrees increase. We don’t need to find any more.
I was at a meeting with a representative from Z Energy recently where they talked about the concept of ‘permitted oil’ as opposed to ‘peak oil’. Last month Z Energy partnered with Norske Skog and others to invest over $13 million in a biomass development project in the Bay of Plenty using woodchips and sawdust to create biofuels. That kind of money is not just green-washing, they are serious about using our existing resources to reduce New Zealand’s $6 billlion/year addiction to fossil fuels and our community should be talking to them.
Scion, the forestry research institute has estimated that eight biomass plants around the country could replace ten percent of our crude oil requirements using just the current waste from the wood industry.
A recent Auckland University and Vivid Economics report commissioned a group New Zealand’s most influential business leaders, suggested that green growth may not out perform the dirty alternatives if the goal is short-term profit but a different way of measuring growth and wealth may be required.
“The benefits of green growth policies do not always show up rapidly as higher growth, and higher short-run growth should not be a necessary criterion for a good green growth policy. This is because conventional measures of growth do not measure the state of the economy’s stocks of wealth, and many valuable environmental outcomes are not traded in markets, so improvements do not appear as growth. A green account addresses these deficiencies.”
Renewable energy industries do however have a much higher job creation result for the same investment in fossil fuels, and Tairawhiti is well placed to take advantage of any shifts in the allocation of resources around the national economy during the transition period.
Gisborne District Council has committed to reviewing our policies and plans as they apply to petroleum exploration and production. As a result of public concern, our Council reportedly has the most robust process for assessing resource consent applications from this industry.
As a community we are still waiting to have a well-informed, rationale discussion on the issues and while central government has indicated a willingness to resource this, they are still rolling out more exploration permits and changing laws to reduce opportunities for public input in the decision-making process.
The local body elections will not provide the best opportunity to have this discussion but candidates should all be able to clarify their understanding of the issues.